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Cambridge-Elan Centre for Research Innovation and Drug Discovery launched

On November 28th, the University of Cambridge and Elan Corporation announced the launch of The Cambridge-Elan Centre for Research Innovation and Drug Discovery (Cambridge-Elan Centre), which will be located at the University. The Cambridge-Elan Centre will provide a highly interdisciplinary environment uniquely positioned for delivering world-leading translational research focused on innovative therapies for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. This ten-year agreement paves the way for a long-term collaboration between Elan and the University of Cambridge.

Cambridge scientists have spent more than ten years engaged in interdisciplinary research in order to understand the fundamental molecular origins of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases. The primary goal of the new Centre will be to extend these activities to discover novel compounds and to characterise the fundamental physico-chemical mechanisms by which they alter the behaviour of proteins associated with neurodegenerative disorders.

Based on this understanding, in conjunction with scientists in Elan who are world leaders in the development of therapies to combat neurodegenerative disorders, these compounds will be translated into new treatments to prevent these diseases. The process of bringing together researchers at the University of Cambridge and at Elan has already created novel insights and opportunities in drug discovery. The new Centre builds on the successes of this initial interaction to establish a long-term relationship to lead to novel and effective therapies for the most debilitating, costly and rapidly proliferating diseases in the modern world.

Speaking about his relationship with Elan and the launch of the Cambridge-Elan Centre, Professor Christopher Dobson FRS, the John Humphrey Plummer Professor of Chemical and Structural Biology at the University of Cambridge and Master of St. John’s College, said, “I believe that we are creating a Centre that will become globally recognized for innovation. Our collective expertise, proven ability to collaborate, and open innovation model provide an exciting basis for the future. The new Centre will bring together the skills of scientists working in an academic institution and in a biotechnology company to develop new and more effective therapies for some of the most devastating and increasingly common human diseases.”

Commenting on the Centre, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Cambridge, Professor Sir Leszek Borysiewicz said, “This exciting collaboration between Cambridge and Elan highlights how, by building on the strengths of each of the organisations, we may find new ways to treat – and beat – debilitating diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, expediting the development of fundamental research into viable treatments for the benefit of the millions they affect.”

“This agreement is a natural next step in the existing working relationship between our scientists in South San Francisco and scientists at the University of Cambridge,’ said Dale Schenk, PhD, executive vice president and chief scientific officer at Elan. ‘This collaborative effort complements our portfolio of programs in neuroscience and supports the process of discovery which we believe may lead to a class of therapeutics that no one has thought possible before.”


Professor Christopher Dobson FRS

Ted Yednock, PhD, executive vice president and head of discovery and translation for Elan went on to say, “Protein folding, misfolding and turnover are central to neurological disease and will be the basis for further scientific and therapeutic advancements. Our relationship with Cambridge will enable us to address the interconnecting biology and biophysics of protein misfolding in multiple disease areas simultaneously and in a timely way for the ultimate benefit of patients.”

Members of Professor Dobson’s team have benefited from funding from Alzheimer’s Research UK. Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “If we are to develop an effective treatment that’s so desperately needed for Alzheimer’s, it’s crucial that we understand the causes of the disease. We have been proud to support this team’s work to unravel how proteins ‘misfold’ and become toxic in Alzheimer’s, and we’re delighted to see this research move forward with such an exciting collaboration. By working together and pooling their expertise, scientists can improve the quality of their work and make faster progress. Funding for dementia research still lags far behind other serious diseases, and we welcome any development that can boost our efforts in this area.”

Posted on 07/12/2011

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